I think we can all agree on this point: It’s really difficult to stand out in your customers’ busy inboxes.
In fact, it’s even worse when the click rate is low and your campaign sales are stagnant or nonexistent.
But is it really that hard?
What if I told you there’s a way you can make sure your emails not only grab your subscribers’ attention from the first second…
…but they also create the urgency to click through and buy from you that same day?
Seem impossible? Well, it isn’t.
Today, I’m going to show you how you can use the power of psychology (backed by science) to improve your email marketing sales.
These 5 psychology hacks will lead to better open rates, click rates, and sales.
And best of all: you can even start using them today.
#1 The Foot-in-the-Door Technique
This psychology principle is based on getting people to do bigger tasks by first having them agree to do smaller tasks.
You are essentially “warming them up” to the big request, which can, literally, be anything.
For example, imagine you’re out with your friend. Then she asks you to help her buy some ingredients for a cake.
So, at the checkout, she asks you if you’d like to hang out while she makes the cake.
Then, when you get to her place, she asks if you wouldn’t mind helping her bake the cake. (And, if she’s really cheeky, she’ll ask if you wouldn’t mind doing it yourself while she goes to do something else.)
This is an example of the foot-in-the-door technique. Each request is relatively small when compared to the previous one. If your friend immediately asked you to help her bake a cake, you probably wouldn’t have agreed.
Researchers Freedman and Fraser showed this psychology hack back in 1966.
They called housewives in California and asked them to first of all discuss the household cleaning products they use. Then after 3 days, they called them again and asked if it was OK for 5-6 men would come visit their homes to inspect their cupboards.
The women that agreed to the first request were twice as likely to agree to the second, bigger request.
How to use it
This is a larger part of your strategy, but you can make smaller steps for your customers to completely.
First, you can have them sign up for your newsletter by offering something of value (discount, free shipping, ebook, etc.). One of the best ways to have them sign up is with an exit-intent popup, which only shows when visitors are getting ready to leave your page.
Nothing can be more attractive and effective than a beautifully constructed exit intent popup to grab the user’s attention and make him stay.
After that, you can then have them fill in a quiz, do a survey, download an ebook, share your posts on social media, or one of many other small steps.
Each step should bring them closer to the final request: to buy, and buy again.
#2 Price Anchoring
There’s a saying that goes, “The best way to sell a $2,000 watch is to put it next to a $10,000 watch.”
This is based on a principle called price anchoring, and it’s true for your email marketing as well.
You see, people really aren’t that great at estimating the value of any item. So what they do is just compare it to other similar items, unless another item acts as a price reference.
Price anchoring is the act of setting an anchor (reference) price, so that consumers will have something to match other prices against.
So if I want to sell a $50 shirt, I’d first list a $100 shirt (with similar features). That way, the $50 one looks cheaper, and consumers would be more willing to buy it.
One study by Northcraft and Neale showed the effect of price anchoring. They asked respondents (including students and real estate experts) to estimate the value of a house. They then gave them pamphlets with normal and exaggerated prices.
Because of those exaggerated prices, the respondents dramatically overestimated the price of the house.
How to use it
Using price anchoring is pretty straightforward.
Focus on an item you want to sell, and then list that as the second item in your emails. Your first item will act as the anchor.
It should be very similar in features so that your focus item looks more appealing.
Reciprocity describes the social pressure that people feel when they unexpectedly receive something for free.
Usually, the recipient will make a point to give back something of the same value, or even of higher value.
Reciprocity is a powerful human instinct, and it’s one that can be used strategically in your email marketing campaigns.
One famous study on reciprocity comes from researcher Philip Kunz when he sent out 600 Christmas cards.
To his delight, he received back more than 200 cards–about 35%.
But the interesting thing is: he had never met any of those people.
The urge of reciprocity was so strong, that 200 people felt obligated to send back a Christmas card, even though they didn’t know the sender.
How to use it
Reciprocity in email marketing can also be a powerful motivator for greater sales.
You can do this in many ways, but one of those is by unexpectedly giving something of value to your customers.
Those customers will, in turn, feel obligated to “pay you back” in some way–which, hopefully, means buying something from your store.
You can give away free shipping, a discount, or even a small gift (like a cup, socks, keychain, etc.)
#4 Scarcity & FOMO
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) may sound like a modern phenomenon, but it’s rooted in human nature.
In general, no matter what the year is, people are pretty scared of missing out on something (such as an investment, experience, or event) that they think will be fun or interesting in some way.
This fear kicks in even if they aren’t really interested in the thing at all.
It’s also closely related to scarcity, or the creation of scarcity. This is where something is known to be limited in availability (time or amount), which kicks in the urgency for people to buy it.
One study that showed FOMO/scarcity comes from Worchel, Lee and Adewole. They showed two jars with similar cookies inside each jar to a group of students.
The students then had to rate the cookies based on desirability, and they were initially rated similarly.
However, when 8 cookies was removed from one jar, the students immediately valued that jar as being more desirable.
How to use it
Using FOMO/scarcity is pretty simple in your email marketing.
You can do this by having sales or products on a limited time, or for a limited amount.
For example, you can emphasize that customers can get 25% off a particular item, but only for the next 24 hours.
Adding a big timer in the email or on your product page will even further drive the point home, which will increase your sales.
#5 The Less Is More Approach
It’s important that you don’t overwhelm your customers with too many options.
If you do, you’ll activate something known as analysis paralysis, where the difficulty of analyzing and choosing between too many options leads people to not choose anything at all.
The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz is built around this point in order to convince businesses that it’s better to offer fewer, curated options.
One study that showed this in practice comes from Iyengar and Lepper who ran an experiment using jam.
One group of shoppers were shown 24 different types of jam, while another group was shown only 6. The group that had 24 jams were more interested, but ended up with a 3% purchase rate.
However, the group that was shown 6 types of jam had lower interest initially, but ended up with a 30% interest rate.
How to use it
The important thing here is not to simply remove choices from your email campaigns, but to curate it based on who you’re sending it to.
That means you’ll have to segment your subscribers pretty well. With good segmentation, you can send out more relevant offers with targeted choices. So your customers will be much more likely to buy.
That way, you can have much better conversions with much less work.
It’s pretty much a win-win for all.
To wrap it up
You can definitely try all 5 of these email marketing psychology hacks to see which one or which ones benefit your business the most.
It’s important to remember, of course, that it’s important to test and improve and see what brings in the best results.
With that, you’ll see that a little bit of psychology can go a long way in making you more sales and making your customers much happier.
About the author:
Bernard Meyer is the Content Marketing Manager at Omnisend, the ecommerce marketing automation platform made for smarter marketers. He’s passionate about researching amazing marketing techniques to help ecommerce businesses succeed.